“How Can This Be?” vs. “How Can I Know?”

“How shall I know this?” Luke 1:18images

“How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

If you’re not careful, you walk away from reading the Christmas story thinking God was way too harsh on Zechariah and let Mary off easy. Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and informed him his wife (who was, well advanced in years) would be pregnant and have a baby. The same angel appeared to Mary and told her she would be pregnant and have a baby. Both Zechariah and Mary asked “How?” Zechariah was struck mute by God and was unable to speak until after his baby was born. Mary, on the other hand, was given a gracious answer and able to carry on with life as normal (well, as normal as any teenager could carry on with life who is pregnant as a virgin with the Son of God).

Zechariah was punished for asking “How?”

Mary was commended.

What’s going on here? Did God just not like Zechariah? Does God like to “play games” with people and make life miserable for them? Why be angry with one and not the other? Or why not be okay with both instead of one?

Take a close look at their questions back to Gabriel. One of them needs more proof that this is really gonna happen. The other just wants to know how it would happen. One wasn’t satisfied with the validity of the message or messenger. The other couldn’t understand the supernatural. One trusted the Word from God. The other needed more.

Zechariah asked, “How can I know this?” In other words, “Okay, so you’re an angel sent from God. Fine. But I need something else. I need more proof. I need something a bit more tangible before I can really trust this.”

Mary asked, “How can this be?” In other words, “I believe this is going to happen. I trust this Word from God. But, I am a virgin. How is this going to happen?”

Mary believed the Word from God and asked for an explanation of how it could actually occur.

Zechariah needed more proof before he would believe.

This has a massive implication for us, doesn’t it? It reveals to us the value God places on His Word as His revealed truth to us and His desire for us to trust what He has made known. It reveals to us the sufficiency of His Word and that it doesn’t need anything else for validity or proof. It also reveals how loving it was for God to punish Zechariah for his lack of faith. Had God not caused a negative consequence on Zechariah, he and all who doubt God’s Word would think it is okay to want more “proof.” If it were okay, when would the “proofing” stop? But as it is, we don’t need any more proof. We have His Word. It is enough. Trust it and obey.

What about you? Do you believe His Word – or are you looking for more proof? It’s okay to ask God how something might happen. But be careful when asking Him how you can know something He said is true. It is true. Believe it.

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3 thoughts on ““How Can This Be?” vs. “How Can I Know?”

  1. Rodney Wimberly says:

    “…It also reveals how loving it was for God to punish Zechariah for his lack of faith. Had God not caused a negative consequence on Zechariah, he and all who doubt God’s Word would think it is okay to want more “proof.” If it were okay, when would the “proofing” stop? But as it is, we don’t need any more proof. We have His Word. It is enough. Trust it and obey.”

    We abandoned the faith of our fathers for scientific proof in the late 1800s and the results speak for themselves; may God please take us back to wonder.

  2. Brad Weinischke says:

    We ask God for so much. We want it now, but our timing is not God’s timing. I don’t know how long Zechariah had been praying to God for a child? How many times has God sent an angel to earth to tell someone their prayers were answered? Zechariahs response should have been one of Joy not doubt. God’s response is clear.

    Mary was chosen by God. Zechariah’s prayers were answered by God. Both were blessed by God. The lesson is in how they responded to God’s blessings.

  3. Ralph Paisley says:

    Pastor Matt,
    What a keen eye to see the subtle differences in these two responses. May our response to God’s Word always Beas Mary, ” May it be to me as you have said.”. Thanks

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